11 April, 2013

“I see a little silhouetto of a man........”

Although I’m a bit of an idealist – a dreamer maybe – I’m also, I think, pretty practical. I always spend a lot of time planning things out – usually because I anticipate something’s going to go wrong! I’m not one for making hasty decisions or doing something on the spare of the moment. I definitely don’t “do” surprises – if anyone springs  a surprise on me I feel very vulnerable and I certainly don’t go in for springing surprises on others – mainly because I don’t know how they will pan out – and that is something I find difficult to cope with! Indeed, some years ago when I wrote what I laughingly describe as “my book” - the story of my life – this feature was one of my “regrets” – that I’ve always been cautious, never comfortable with a quick change of tack or having what might be called a “wild fling”. In fact, I openly admit, I’m a pretty boring bloke! My wife might say I’m a typical “Taurean” – steady, hard working, stubborn, never giving in, but at the same time a bit predictable and dull! She has learned to live with the fact that I’m not likely to ever sweep her off her feet with a spare of the moment holiday, a romantic evening out or a diamond ring!
So, when something happens to me that is quite unplanned and unexpected – and in this case fantastically enjoyable – it really bowls me over. Let me explain.

Mercury & Queen at Live Aid in 1985
A couple of weeks ago (sorry about the delay in blogging about this – I’ve been busy with other things!!!) Pat and I went to the Nottingham Arena together with a few thousand others to see the musical “We Will Rock You”. The show is currently touring the UK and Nottingham was its opening night. I had booked the tickets months ago – again the result of a lot of heart searching – at over £30 each I gave it a lot of thought and then often wondered whether, in these austere times, it was a good use of my £60.00! “We Will Rock” you is a show based on the music of the great supergroup of the 1970s & 80s Queen – one of my favourites. One of my regrets is that I’ve only ever seen video footage of the group’s appearance at the Live Aid Concert at Wembley in 1985. The concert, and more especially Queen’s performance that day, is often said to be “the greatest live concert ever staged and a day that no one who saw it will ever forget” (Daily Telegraph). And, of course, central to it all was the magnificent Freddie Mercury – sadly, now dead. On that day Queen and Mercury stole the show - they were the undeniable stars in a show packed with the world’s pop and rock royalty. Back in 1985 I had a young family, work commitments and all the impedimenta that were always going to stop me hiking off to Wembley to see Queen – so I never got there! And now Freddie Mercury is dead and Queen are no more as a group - but their music lives on with tribute bands up and down the country and in this wonderful celebration of their music in the show “We Will Rock You”.
The iconic video clip from Bohemian Rhapsody
So, Pat and I joined a few thousand others at the Arena. Luckily our seats were right at the front and we loved it – loud, brash, silly, pathetic story line (as with most musicals) but wonderful, wonderful music. Many on the audience were like us – pensioners re-living our youth but there were too many “youngsters” – all dressed up in colourful and glittery “Queen-type” get ups.

I would not want to spoil the show for anyone who hasn’t seen it but throughout the story there are many references to Queen’s great hit Bohemian Rhapsody – but, strangely, the song is never actually sung. All the other hits are sung – but not “Rhapsody”. Youngsters stood up in their seats and danced and clapped and waved their arms – more sedate people like me quietly nodded our heads in time with the music. Everyone was having a wonderful time.
With the cast

And so at last the final curtain came.............we all clapped and cheered – well worth every penny of my £60 plus pounds. But, even so, as the actors and singers and dancers took their final bows I had just the tiniest tinge of regret – no Bohemian Rhapsody – the song that defined Queen and one that often tops charts as the greatest pop song. The cheering continued -  a great night.........and then, when all seemed over, there flashed up on to the stage screen “Would you like Bohemian Rhapsody?”. Everyone cheered in agreement and the band struck up.......

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.
Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I'm easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Any way the wind blows doesn't really matter to me, to me.......

We all joined in with the cast – everyone enjoying this final reprise.  And then, and then............it happened!

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?

One of my illegal pics
And at the back of the stage – in silhouette at first - emerged a man – playing the guitar – and making a sound so well known and imprinted on minds that every person in that arena recognised it. The man, long coated, bent low over his guitar was instantly recognisable. But it couldn’t be...... could it?  It looks like him.........it can’t be........it  must be him.........it is! There was a quite audible intake of breath and gasp from the entire audience. Pat and I like thousands of others turned to each other in disbelief. Despite the strict rule about no photography, I like everyone around me, took out my mobile phone and began snapping. I wasn’t going to miss this.

Totally unexpected, not advertised, a fantastically well kept secret – the iconic Queen guitarist Brian May was on the stage in front of us – just a few feet from where we stood. His long coat that became a hall mark of his when he was playing with Queen trailing on the floor as he played his guitar and the music got wilder. In one of the breaks in the music he threw off his coat and played solo – and how the crown loved it. We that we were present at something very special. Never in my wildest dream had I ever thought that Brian May would be present at the show. It might not have been Live Aid – but it was a good substitute!

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,

Nothing really matters,

Nothing really matters to me.

Any way the wind blows.

Brian May in full swing

And as the final guitar chords at last drifted away, as the final words to Bohemian Rhapsody disappeared into the night Brian May lay down his guitar and stepped forward. A microphone was thrust into his hand and the cast gathered around him. Suddenly the whole Arena became totally silent as if a switch had been flicked – several thousand people all wanting to hear him! And he explained his presence– after thanking people for coming and congratulating the cast on a wonderful performance. The show was the very first night of the national tour and he felt it right to be there on that opening night. And we all cheered.
The famous long coat (and long hair)!

He could, I suppose, have easily sat unnoticed in one of the many hospitality suites, he could have simply walked on the stage at the end to say a few words – but to come on playing the guitar and making the sounds that millions across the world loved and instantly recognised as his was fantastic and right. It was, in a small way, the sort of outrageous action that Queen and Freddie Mercury made their own in their great days. Mercury had such stage presence and charisma that he could hold hundreds of thousands of people in his hand but I’m sure that if he was looking down on Nottingham Arena that night even he would, I think, have approved and been quietly impressed with his friend May’s action. 
Explaining his presence in Nottingham

Brian May made a lot of people in Nottingham very, very happy – and without any doubt made it a very special treat! It made front page headlines of the local papers and news and for me, this totally unexpected, unplanned almost surreal event will live long in my memory. In the great scheme of things it is no big deal - I expect Brian May has forgotten about it by now - but to a lot of people, myself included, we all felt that we had been present at something a bit special and never to be repeated. Maybe surprises are good after all!!!!!

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